How Can I Get a California Undergraduate Degree?

Bachelors Degree Requirements for the State of CA

Whether you attend a state university or a private college, the requirements for a bachelors degree with the intent to go to law school are very similar. If the school is on a semester system, it is standard that you must have a minimum of 120-semester units, with 40 of these being upper division in order to graduate. If the school is on a quarter system, the minimum number of quarter units is 180, with at least 72 of these being in General Education. If you wish to attend an ABA-approved law school, you should check to be sure that your undergraduate institution is either nationally or regionally accredited.

Requirements and Standards specific to California for Undergraduates 

Several college undergraduate requirements are specific to obtaining a degree in California, regardless of your major. If you go to any school in this state, you will be required to pass the Entry Level Writing Requirement (ELWR). This can be done either by passing an exam or by passing the appropriate college English course with a grade of C or better. California college graduates are also required to take a minimum of courses in American History and Institutions to ensure that they have a basic knowledge of this country’s history and development. If your native language isn’t English and you don’t meet certain other requirements, you will also need to pass the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) requirement, and the approved examinations for this will vary depending on the type of school and campus that you attend.

Undergraduate Legal Studies Degree Programs in California For Lawyers

There are a few universities in California that have legal studies undergraduate degree programs. However, this no required major for admission to law school. Some of the more common degree programs that pre-law undergraduates pursue are Philosophy, Political Science, Criminal Justice, Economics, and Journalism. The State Bar of California only requires completion of either 60 semester hours or 90 quarter hours of pre-legal education. This is the equivalent of half of a bachelor’s degree. You may apply to have your education requirements evaluated by the Bar, however, this will not guarantee you admission to any law school.

Undergraduate Degree Programs in California For Paralegals

The selection of a degree program is quite different if you are interested in becoming a paralegal. California has the largest number of paralegals in the nation and, while there is not a 4-year degree requirement to become a paralegal, there are several universities that offer bachelor’s degrees in paralegal studies.

Talk to College Advisors for More Information on College Degrees

If you are interested in pursuing an undergraduate degree in California on the pathway to law school and are still unsure about what direction to take, the best course of action is to contact the school advisor at the college or university that you are interested in attending. Many undergraduate institutions even have pre-law advisors, who will help students choose courses and apply to law school. For example, if you were attending California State University at Long Beach, you could call (562) 985-4837 or visit their undergraduate advising page for more information. If attending UC, Santa Cruz, you can choose the particular college that you have questions about to contact an advisor by phone or email.

Everything You Need to Know About the California LSAT

What is the LSAT?

If you have attended or plan to attend, a four-year university chances are you have taken a standardized test such as the SAT or the ACT. The LSAT is a standardized law school entrance exam that is meant to determine your readiness for pursuing a law degree.

What is the California LSAT Test Comprised of?

There are five sections to the LSAT, each of which is 35-minutes in length. This multiple-choice test measures such things as logical reasoning, reading comprehension, and analytical reasoning. Only four out of the five sections are used to compute the test taker’s overall score. The remaining section is a sample to pre-test new questions, although you won’t be told which section that is until you receive your score report. There is also a 35-minute writing sample that is unscored, but that is sent to the law schools that receives your test scores.

How Many Times Can I Take the LSAT in California?

Typically, you will not be permitted to take the LSAT more than three times in any two-year period. If you have significant extenuating circumstances, the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) may make exceptions to this policy. Also keep in mind that some CA schools will average the test and you should never take the test just for practice. Put in the practice and try to nail your score the first time, you will be much better off than if you have to take the test 3 or 4 times.

How Much Does the LSAT cost in CA?

The cost to take the LSAT is $175 nationwide, but you should investigate to see if you may be eligible for a fee waiver due to financial hardship.

When do I Receive My LSAT Score?

Students who have registered for the test online should have registered with an LSAC.org account. This is the fastest way to get test scores as notice will be delivered by email approximately three weeks after the test. Scores can then be viewed within your online account. If you don’t have an online account, LSAC will mail your score report to you approximately four weeks after the test date.

Where Can I Take the LSAT in California?

The LSAT is administered four times per year (June, Sept/Oct, Dec, and Feb) and there are many test centers in California that offer the test. However, not every test center will administer the test on all four dates. When you register, you will need to confirm that the center you are interested in is available.

California LSAT Testing Locations

Here is a list of all of the cities and locations in California where the LSAT is administered each year:

  • Alameda, College of Alameda
  • Arcata, Humboldt State University
  • Azusa, Azusa Pacific University
  • Chatsworth, University of West Los Angeles
  • Chico, California Northern School of Law
  • Chico, California State University – Chico
  • Clovis, San Joaquin College of Law
  • Folsom, Folsom Lake College
  • Fresno, California State University – Fresno
  • Fullerton, Western State University College of Law
  • Irvine, Concordia University – Irvine
  • Irvine, Irvine Valley College
  • Los Angeles, California State University – Los Angeles
  • Los Angeles, Loyola Marymount University
  • Los Angeles, Southwestern Law School
  • Los Angeles, University of Southern
  • Mission Viejo, Saddleback College
  • Northridge, California State University – Northridge
  • Oakland, California Ballroom/ Conference Center
  • Oakland, Samuel Merritt University-Health Education Center
  • Ontario, University of LaVerne
  • Orange, Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law
  • Pleasant Hill, John F. Kennedy University School of Law
  • Redlands, University of Redlands
  • Riverside, LaSierra University
  • Rohnert Park, Sonoma State University
  • Sacramento, Lincoln Law School of Sacramento
  • Sacramento, University of the Pacific – McGeorge School of Law
  • San Bernardino, California State University – San Bernardino
  • San Diego, California Western School of Law
  • San Diego, Patrick Henry High School
  • San Diego, San Diego State University
  • San Diego, Thomas Jefferson School of Law
  • San Francisco, San Francisco Law School
  • San Francisco, San Francisco State University
  • San Francisco, University of San Francisco
  • San Luis Obispo, California Polytechnic State University
  • Santa Barbara, University of California – Santa Barbara
  • Santa Barbara, Westmont College – Adams
  • Santa Rosa, Empire College School of Law
  • Santa Rosa, Santa Rosa Junior College
  • Seaside, Monterey College of Law
  • Stockton, Humphreys College – School of Law
  • Walnut Creek, Marriott Walnut Creek
  • Whittier, Rio Hondo College

Where Can I Apply in CA?

The best way to apply for the LSAT in California is to register your account with the LSAC and sign up for your desired test date and center online. You can also register by phone by calling (215) 968-1001 or call this same number to request a paper registration package.

Taking a LSAT Prep Course in CA

After you have selected your LSAT test date, it’s crucial that you properly prepare for this challenging exam.

Are There Prep Courses for the LSAT in California?

There are many opportunities for LSAT prep courses in California and in a variety of formats. Kaplan is one of the most popular LSAT test prep companies and gives students the option of Self-Paced Study, Live Online Courses, In-Person Courses, or even Private Tutoring. TestMasters is another popular course and provides Live Training in 23 locations in California throughout the year. BTPS Testing has some very affordable LSAT test prep classes in both northern and southern California. Finally, Blueprint LSAT also offers live classroom training in 16 locations in California.

How Can a Prep Course Help Me Get a Better Score?

It has been proven time and again that LSAT prep courses help improve scores. They provide first-hand test experience to gauge areas of weakness that need the most attention. Prep courses also give students valuable test taking tips and strategies that could make the difference between a mediocre score and one that will get you into the law school of your choice.

Applying to a California Law School

Choosing a law school is an important decision. Your choice may be weighed by such things as financial means, academic performance, and future goals. In California, there are several different types of law schools, those that are approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) and considered nationally accredited, those accredited by The State Bar of California only, and those that are unaccredited or are registered as correspondence schools.

What are the Nationally Accredited Law Schools in CA? 

California Western School of Law
225 Cedar St.
San Diego, CA 92101-3046
619-239-0391

University of California Davis School of Law
400 Mrak Hall Drive
Davis, CA 95616-5201
530-752-0243

Chapman University School of Law
370 North Glassell St.
Orange, CA 92866-1032
888-242-1913
714-628-2500

University of California Irvine School of Law
401 E. Peltason Drive, Suite 1000
Irvine, CA 92697-8000
949-824-0066

Golden Gate University School of Law
536 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA 94105-2921
415-442-6600

University of California Los Angeles School of Law
P.O. Box 951476
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
310-825-4841

Loyola Law School
919 S. Albany St.
Los Angeles, CA 90015-1211
213-736-1000

University of California Hastings College of the Law
200 McAllister St.
San Francisco, CA 94102-4707
415-565-4600

Pepperdine University School of Law
24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263-4655
310-456-4634

University of La Verne College of Law
320 East “D” St.
Ontario, CA 91764
909-460-2000

Santa Clara University School of Law
500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95053-0001
408-554-4800

University of San Diego School of Law
5998 Alcalá Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
619-260-4600

Southwestern Law School
3050 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010-1106
213-738-6700

University of San Francisco School of Law
2130 Fulton St.
San Francisco, CA 94117
415-422-6586

Stanford Law School
559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
650-723-2465

University of Southern California Gould School of Law
University Park
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0071
213-740-2523

Thomas Jefferson School of Law
1155 Island Ave.
San Diego, CA 92101
619-297-9700

University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law
3200 Fifth Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817-2705
916-739-7191

University of California Berkeley School of Law
270 Simon Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
510-642-2274

Western State University College of Law
1111 North State College Blvd.
Fullerton, CA 92831-3014
714-738-1000

Whittier Law School
3333 Harbor Blvd.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626-1501
714-444-4141

Are There Legal Correspondence Schools in California?
There are twelve correspondence law schools currently registered in California, where instruction is considered distance learning or primarily online. If you attend a non-accredited school, the California Bar requires that you apply for and pass the First Year Law Student’s Examination, often called the Baby Bar, after your first year of study. Here are California’s correspondence schools:

Abraham Lincoln University School of Law
3530 Wilshire Blvd, #1435
Los Angeles, CA 90010
866-558-0999

American Heritage University School of Law and Public Policy
1802 East G St.
Ontario, CA 91764
888-484-8689

American International School of Law
16491 Scientific Way
Irvine, CA 92618
888-875-5175

Northwestern California University School of Law
2151 River Plaza Drive, Suite 306
Sacramento, CA
95833-4133
916-920-9470

California Southern University
930 Roosevelt Avenue
Irvine, CA 92620
800-477-2254

California School of Law
5276 Hollister Ave, #262
Santa Barbara, CA 93111
805-683-5337 and
866-970-4529

Concord Law School of Kaplan University
10866 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1240
Los Angeles, CA 90024
800-439-4794

Oak Brook College of Law and Government Policy
P.O. Box 26870
Fresno, CA 93729-6870
559-650-7755

Central California University School of Law
P.O. Box 581053
Modesto, CA 95358
(209) 577-3161

St. Francis School of Law
895 Dove St., 3rd Floor
Newport Beach, CA 92606
844-636-1433

Taft Law School
3700 So. Susan St., Office 200
Santa Ana, CA 92704-6954
800-882-4555

International Pacific School of Law
3055 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 500
Los Angeles, CA 90010
888-921-8899

Attending a CA Law School

Once you are admitted to law school, the program of study that you pursue will vary depending on the particular school and its accreditation level.

How Many Semester Hours Must I Complete in a California Law School?

If you are attending an ABA-accredited law school, you must complete 83 semester hours of courses to graduate. The time that you take to complete your Juris Doctorate (J.D.) degree must be at least 24 months but not longer than 84 months. Also, the academic year of the school must extend at least eight calendar months over 130 days. If you are attending a Correspondence School in California, you must complete a four-year program that consists of at least 864 hours of study and preparation per year.

What are the California Law School Course Requirements? 

Most law schools in California have a required course curriculum for first-year students. This is to give beginning law students a foundation on which they can build their subsequent legal study. For example, UC Berkeley has seven required courses for freshmen. Those are Civil Procedure, Torts, Property, Contracts, Criminal Law, Written and Oral Advocacy, and Legal Research and Writing. Once those are completed, law students are given more freedom to choose areas of interest, such as Environmental Law, Litigation, or Family Law courses.

Famous California Law Professors

Few states have as many notable law professors as California and attending law school here can quickly put you in the presence of some of the greatest minds in the legal profession. Here are just a few:

  • Jeffrey L. Fisher has argued 27 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and is the current co-director of the Stanford University Supreme Court Litigation Clinic.
  • Maria Eschaveste is a US Berkley alumni and the former Deputy Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton. Eschaveste is a Senior Fellow and Program Director at one of the school’s most active research centers.
  • Susan Estrich is a Fox News commentator, the author of several popular books and was the first woman to become editor of the Harvard Law Review. She is currently a Professor of Law and Political Science at USC.
  • Eugene Volokh is a successful First Amendment Law author and a current UCLA Law School professor.

Taking the CA Bar Exam

Applying to the CA Bar Exam

You should actually register with the California Bar Association as a new law student. Having an account allows you to apply for the First Year Law Student’s Exam if your school requires it. Also, the California Bar requires that you make an application for a Moral Character Determination. This is a process that can take up to six months to complete and should be started in your final year of law school. Finally, this online account is where you will register to take the California Bar Exam. The exam is administered each February and July in both Northern and Southern California.  This is an 18-hour exam that is spread out over three consecutive days, with a morning and afternoon session for each.

Overview of Day 1 the Bar Exam

The Bar Examination is essay-intensive, and there are three essays to write on the first morning that could be based on any combination of 17 subjects. The entire afternoon session is a performance test.

Overview of Day 2 the Bar Exam

The second day of testing is all multiple-choice. There are 100 questions in the morning and more of the same in the afternoon.  The scope of these questions, as well as other parts of the exam, is expected to include such subjects as Constitutional law, California Code of Civil Procedure, California Community Property Law, Torts, Wills, Trusts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Remedies, Trusts, Real Property, Federal and State Rules of Evidence, Contracts, Professional Responsibility, and Business Associations.

Overview of Day 3 the Bar Exam

Day three will be similar to day 1, with three essays in the morning and another performance test in the afternoon.

California Bar Exam Fees

It currently costs $677 to register for the California Bar Exam. If you wish to use a laptop during the examination, there is an additional fee of $153 and some very specific laptop registration instructions that need to be followed.

Licensing Requirements for the California Bar Exam

After you have taken the Bar Exam, it takes about 90 days for results to be released. Results arepublished on the State Bar of California website as well as individually mailed to test takers. Another requirement for acceptance to the California Bar is that you pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE). This is a two-hour multiple-choice test that is offered several times per year. It is conducted by the National Conference of Bar Examiners and can either be taken before or after you take the Bar Exam. After passing the Bar Exam and the MPRE, you have five years to apply for admission to the California Bar.  

Joining the California State BAR Association

Once you have submitted your final application to be admitted to the California State Bar, you need only wait for the notification that will tell you when to appear to take your oath of professional responsibility.

California Legal Organizations

What State and Local Groups are there for Lawyers? 

Many legal organizations throughout California give lawyers both networking and continuing education opportunities. Here are just a few of the most prominent:

 

How are the CA Court Systems Organized?

The California courts are divided into two systems, federal and state.  The state courts are divided into trial courts, also called “superior courts”, and appellate courts. The majority of cases will be heard in a trial court in one of the state’s fifty-eight counties. Cases in these courts are both civil and criminal as well as juvenile, traffic, family, and probate. The appellate courts are for the review of superior court cases, and the highest court is the state Supreme Court.

In addition, there are federal courts that handle federal cases that take place within California. The two levels of federal courts in the state are the U.S. district courts and the regional U.S. courts of appeal. Anything beyond this goes to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Jobs for California Law Graduates

What Companies in CA are Hiring Lawyers?

When looking for the companies in California that are hiring lawyers, it often helps to start with the large law firms in the state. Littler Mendelson in Los Angeles is the largest in California, with over 1,000 lawyers on staff. The next biggest firms are Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco and Lewis, Brisbois, Bisgaard & Smith, also in Los Angeles. There are also generally many openings with smaller firms or for in-house counsel jobs in other industries.

California Government and Legal Careers

If working in government interests you, there are opportunities through the Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General for lawyers in many areas. This office has two programs for recent law-school graduates – the Attorney General’s Honor Program and the Earl Warren Solicitor Fellowship. Both are paid positions. You can also search the Attorney General’s site for openings as well as the state of California government site.

California Legal Internship Programs for Recent College Grads

Legal internships are one of the best ways to get your foot in the door and to demonstrate your knowledge of the law. The Department of Justice, Office of Attorney General also has many Internship and Student Position opportunities throughout the state. These can be obtained in different sections such as the Civil Law Division, Criminal Law Division, and Public Rights Division. There are also internship programs at the county or district level. For example, Orange County has an extensive listing on their website that includes several law clerk internships. If you would rather intern with a private law firm, contact the firms that you are interested in working with or search for internships on a site like this one.

Salaries Expectations for California Lawyers

According to recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data, California is a profitable place to be a lawyer.  Cost-of-living notwithstanding, the three top paying metropolitan areas in the country for lawyers are in California and are San Jose, San Francisco, and Los Angeles respectively. The annual mean wage for lawyers in San Jose is $201,240, and the figure for Los Angeles is $171,130. Of the top ten cities on that particular list, five were in California. The others are Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz. Statewide, the annual mean wage for lawyers in California is $158,200. While entry-level attorney salaries may not be this high, salaries for lawyers in California are above the national average regardless of years of experience.